I keep waiting for the missing to fade—for my heart to settle into my new life and my brain to stop thinking that I belong somewhere else. You know what I mean? Like, I keep expecting to one day not miss someplace; I keep waiting for the images of my past life to fade.
I’ve been waiting for the moment that I can close my eyes and not visualize myself standing in Piazza dell’Unita, turning in a circle and taking in the gold-plated architecture, and then, as I spin, the bluest of blue seas. Unless it’s foggy and the wind is whipping, then the water turns gray and the waves rise.
And right when I think I've completely forgotten about the small mountain village where I spent high school afternoons lounging on the grass listening to donkeys bray and working on English essays, it comes back to me in vivid color, and my stomach clenches and my heart hurts.
The pieces of my history come back to me in flashes of vibrant color only occasionally marred by tones of gray.
I feel like my past is just scattered with particles of my history, littering the earth behind me, and most days I’m fine with it—fine with the fact that I haven’t got a childhood home, or childhood friends, really.
There are memories all over the world for me, tucked in small European corners and this one grassy area in China where we camped for five days, peed in the woods, and bathed in the river.
More importantly, there are homes—multiple homes—that I claim, and wherever I go, I’m going to miss something.
I’ve been coming to terms with this lately: that no matter where I go in life, I’m always going to miss someplace.
For example: I’m currently living in New York City. And it’s not really hyperbole to say that this is the place I dreamed of living in for years; literally since I was a freshman in college, I had my sights set on The Big Apple.
But what I didn’t count on was the fact that choosing to live here means I’m choosing not to live somewhere else. In choosing New York, I actively chose not to return to my hometown of Trieste, in Italy; and I actively chose not to move back to my family's home base of Columbia, South Carolina; and I actively chose not to go somewhere else and start a brand new adventure there.
I don’t regret my decision. It’s just that I miss other places. I am constantly missing Italy. It’s like a low-grade fever that just perennially hums underneath my skin, and if I close my eyes it’s not darkness I see but flashes of my home.
As for South Carolina, I mostly miss the people. It’s where my family is—all of them except my parents—and it’s where the closest thing I have to a childhood friend is.
For a long time, I fought the missing and the homesickness. I thought it meant that I was regretting my choice. I thought it meant I wasn’t supposed to be in New York. Because if I can be where I want to be and still wish I were somewhere else…doesn’t that mean something is wrong?
No, it doesn’t. It’s just life. Especially life for a TCK.
I know that TCKs aren’t the only people who can feel at home in multiple places or miss multiple places. But it is unique to us that at such a young age, we accrue so many homes.
Each discovery of a new home is magical and wonderful. There’s the honeymoon phase, where you’re just settling in and getting to know the new place, and each day is filled with some new discovery, of a fresh bakery on one corner and a discount clothing store on another; of a best friend here and a best friend there. And then you settle in and really make it your own.
And if—when—you move again, you rediscover a new home, it’s beautiful all over again; but this time it’s tinged with the bittersweet tang of missing. And you realize: this is life, now.
The more places you love, the more places you have to mourn. It’s a fact of life.
As hard as it is some days, as much as my heart aches with missing, I wouldn’t trade it. I wouldn’t trade the years I spent in Italy for anything in the world, because that’s my home.
Italy is my home as much as New York is, and I will always miss at least one of them. It’s just a fact of life.